5 Steps to Supporting Mental Health at Work

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

More than 56% of employees have stated they haven’t received any mental health support or training from their employer since March in a survey by mental health organisation, TalkOut. The pandemic has seemingly highlighted how mental health support and awareness in the workplace is lacking. Levels of anxiety and depression have increased as a result of the pandemic, hitting those with a diagnosed mental illness, parents and caretakers, lower household income, and people living in urban areas the hardest, according to the Health Foundation.

Everybody deserves to feel safe and supported at their workplace and employer’s have a responsibility to provide that space.

  1. Promote a work/life balance

Whilst hard-working employees deserve recognition and praise, ensure there is encouragement of taking breaks throughout the day for a coffee round and leaving workplace associations at the door at the end of the day. Don’t expect (or place the expectation) employees to be available for phone calls and emails outside of working hours.

2. Open up conversations about mental health

It may be the most uncomfortable to do if you aren’t so familiar with mental health issues but discussing mental health in the workplace is the most important of all. The more topics surrounding mental health are discussed over a cup of coffee, the more normalised they become and therefore the more supported colleagues and employees feel regarding their mental health at work. The less of a “get on with it” attitude you have when it comes to mental health and work, the better. Ignoring mental health issues does nothing but worsen them.

3. Support employees efforts to access help

Booking a morning off for a routine dental hygiene check is done without any shame or excuse, but when it comes to having time off to visit a GP, the stance completely differs. There is a lot of stigma in taking time off for health issues that may be invisible to the eyes of others, but that’s what a mental health problem is, it’s mostly invisible to everybody else. Encourage and support employees efforts to get help and let them know that you are there to do whatever you can to help during this time.

4. Always choose an appropriate time and place

Mental health isn’t an easy topic for many, particularly those who are having a difficult time. When it comes to talking with a colleague about their mental health, ensure you arrange a time and place that is most comfortable for them and where you can guarantee your full attention. The main priority is finding a time and place that’s comfortable for them – take into consideration that a hustle and bustle environment work for some whereas others prefer peace and quiet.

5. Responding to suicidal thoughts

If you are concerned that a colleague may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, the best thing for you to do is ask them directly during a conversation about their mental health. Be as clear as possible in your language and avoid euphemisms such as “You wouldn’t do something stupid, would you?” Experiencing suicidal thoughts is not attention seeking, this is another myth surrounding mental health. If your colleague expresses they are feeling suicidal or if you have reason to believe they are thinking of taking their own life, it is important to encourage them to get professional help.

Helpful lines of support:

Samaritans –

Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

Website: www.samaritans.org.uk

Men’s Health Forum –

24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.

Website: www.menshealthforum.org.uk

Mind –

Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.

Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)

Website: www.mind.org.uk

Ciao for now x

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Posted by

Wellbeing writer, host for The Inspired Narrative podcast and mental health support worker.

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